Webinar Report: Land, Territory and Human Rights Violations in Guatemala | Land Portal
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Date of publication: 
January 2020
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In 2018, Global Witness found that Guatemala had experienced the highest increase in the number of murders of land and environmental defenders of any country in the world. Last year alone, the president of the village chapter of the Comité de Desarrollo Campesino (CODECA), a national organization of social movements led by indigenous people who work for the recognition of land rights, was murdered, as well as four of his colleagues. Many of these murders occurred in the municipality of Izabal. Izabal is home to mining operations, oil palm plantations and decades of community displacement of Maya Q’eqchi ‘. Once again, according to Global Witness, Guatemala is now among the most dangerous countries in the world for land and environment activists. According to the UK-based group, the country experienceda five-fold increase in the number of murders of land defenders between 2017 andlast year, with 16 deaths, which made it one of the bloodiest countries per capita.

The murders are only the tip of the iceberg, in terms of abuses faced by people
who defend their territory and their environment. There are a variety of situations
at play, including multiple threats, physical and verbal attacks, imprisonment and criminalization. “The backbone of the policy of repression against human rightsdefenders focuses on two significant types of aggression: criminalization, which killscivilian life; and physical elimination. In both cases, the central objective is to silence the voices of rights defenders.”

Therefore, the main purpose of this webinar was to gather a variety of perspectives, so that webinar panelists could be provided with a central focus on the way forward in terms of action / calls to the action for organizations, governments and others.

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Landesa partners with governments and local organizations to ensure that the world’s poorest families have secure rights over the land they till. Founded as the Rural Development Institute, Landesa has helped more than 105 million poor families gain legal control over their land since 1967. When families have secure rights to land, they can invest in their land to sustainably increase their harvests and reap the benefits—improved nutrition, health, and education—for generations.